Moth like wings spiny red legs
January 14, 2010
Found this bug on the outside of our house. It is about the size of the palm of your hand and has wings that look like a moth’s, but spiny crab-like legs. It didn’t move from the same spot for 3 days, and just today was gone. Any ideas? Thanks!
Not a big bug fan
San Diego, CA
Dear Not a big bug fan,
Interestingly, your friend L sent us this exact photo yesterday, but it was a lower resolution and we were lamenting to ourselves that the resolution was so poor. L will probably be disappointed to find out you already know the answer. We didn’t tell L the scientific name is Hyalophora euryalus, or that the natural range is from Baja to Canada along the westernmost portion of North America. Here is what we wrote back to L a few minutes ago.
This is a Ceanothus Silkmoth. With more Southern California Landscaping being mindful of drought tolerant plants, especially native vegetation, we expect to be getting more reports of sightings of Ceanothus Silkmoths each year. Your letter does not indicate if your friend lives near any natural open space, as this native moth, which does not feed as an adult and only lives for a few days, long enough to mate. The Ceanothus Silkmoth develops from a large caterpillar that feed on the leaves of ceanothus, a plant sometimes marketed as California lilac. BugGuide reports California sightings from March through August, so this January appearance is uncharacteristically early, but it may also be a result of our unseasonal rains this past October.
Thank you! You solved the mystery, you guys sure know your bugs :). Very interesting looking moth.